‘Hours’ movie review: Paul Walker gives touching performance in one of his final roles


The late Paul Walker makes one of his final film appearances as concerned father Nolan Hayes in “Hours,” a thriller set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. (Skip Bolen)
January 23

‘Hours’ movie review: Paul Walker gives touching performance in one of his final roles

Hours” is a small film, and would likely not be getting the modest attention it is were it not for the untimely death of its star, Paul Walker, who was killed in a car crash last November at age 40. Best known for his participation in the “Fast and Furious” action franchise — the seventh installment of which is reportedly being rewritten to accommodate the actor’s death — Walker always has projected a stolid, if less than electrifying, presence.

That remains the case in “Hours,” in which he portrays a frantic new father in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his quiet, workmanlike way, however, the performer creates a stirring portrait of paternal devotion.

Set in a New Orleans hospital, “Hours” is the story of Nolan Hayes (Walker) and his attempt to keep his newborn daughter alive after he is left alone to tend to her malfunctioning ventilator when the entire staff and all other patients are evacuated. Aside from some brushes with armed looters, a stray dog and a rescue helicopter scared off by snipers, Nolan literally spends most of the film, which spans about two days, cooped up in a hospital room cranking a manual generator to keep his child breathing. In between cranks, he talks to the baby, who can’t breath on her own yet, about her mother (Genesis Rodriguez).

Mom, who has died in childbirth, appears in flashbacks and as a ghostly apparition. Nolan also rushes around the abandoned building looking for medical supplies, growing increasingly desperate as time passes.

As it does, Walker’s performance — along with the film — gets more and more engrossing.

Sure, the setup is kind of gimmicky. The ventilator’s balky battery will only hold a charge for a few minutes, which means that Nolan must constantly rush back and forth between his infant’s side and whatever mission he’s on: tracking down more saline, flagging down help, trying to fire up the ignition of an ambulance with a flooded engine. The fact that the character also has to provide a running commentary on the action is also a bit annoying, especially when the similarly themed “All Is Lost” proved that a spoken monologue under emergency circumstances is not just unrealistic, but dramatically unnecessary.

Still, the gimmick works, thanks to Walker’s surprising ability to explore — and to reveal — his character’s interior life. Compared to the “Fast and Furious” films, “Hours” is a chamber piece, but Walker wrings real pathos out of his instrument.

★★

PG-13. At the Rave Cinemas Centreville; also available on demand through Amazon Instant, iTunes and cable outlets. Contains brief violence, drug abuse, mild sensuality, some crude language and mature thematic material. 97 minutes.

by Michael O’Sullivan

Hours” is a small film, and would likely not be getting the modest attention it is were it not for the untimely death of its star, Paul Walker, who was killed in a car crash last November at age 40. Best known for his participation in the “Fast and Furious” action franchise — the seventh installment of which is reportedly being rewritten to accommodate the actor’s death — Walker always has projected a stolid, if less than electrifying, presence.

That remains the case in “Hours,” in which he portrays a frantic new father in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In his quiet, workmanlike way, however, the performer creates a stirring portrait of paternal devotion.

Set in a New Orleans hospital, “Hours” is the story of Nolan Hayes (Walker) and his attempt to keep his newborn daughter alive after he is left alone to tend to her malfunctioning ventilator when the entire staff and all other patients are evacuated. Aside from some brushes with armed looters, a stray dog and a rescue helicopter scared off by snipers, Nolan literally spends most of the film, which spans about two days, cooped up in a hospital room cranking a manual generator to keep his child breathing. In between cranks, he talks to the baby, who can’t breath on her own yet, about her mother (Genesis Rodriguez).

Mom, who has died in childbirth, appears in flashbacks and as a ghostly apparition. Nolan also rushes around the abandoned building looking for medical supplies, growing increasingly desperate as time passes.

As it does, Walker’s performance — along with the film — gets more and more engrossing.

Sure, the setup is kind of gimmicky. The ventilator’s balky battery will only hold a charge for a few minutes, which means that Nolan must constantly rush back and forth between his infant’s side and whatever mission he’s on: tracking down more saline, flagging down help, trying to fire up the ignition of an ambulance with a flooded engine. The fact that the character also has to provide a running commentary on the action is also a bit annoying, especially when the similarly themed “All Is Lost” proved that a spoken monologue under emergency circumstances is not just unrealistic, but dramatically unnecessary.

Still, the gimmick works, thanks to Walker’s surprising ability to explore — and to reveal — his character’s interior life. Compared to the “Fast and Furious” films, “Hours” is a chamber piece, but Walker wrings real pathos out of his instrument.

★★

PG-13. At the Rave Cinemas Centreville; also available on demand through Amazon Instant, iTunes and cable outlets. Contains brief violence, drug abuse, mild sensuality, some crude language and mature thematic material. 97 minutes.

Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Michael O’Sullivan has worked since 1993 at The Washington Post, where he covers art, film and other forms of popular — and unpopular — culture.
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